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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Addiction Research: There’s an App for That

Ten years ago, none of us could've imagined the role that cellular phones would have in our lives, short of making phone calls. At an exponential rate, smartphones have found their way into practically all aspects of day to day life. We turn to our phones to get the time and weather, we rely on them for breaking news reports and to check the stock market; exercise enthusiasts monitor their calorie intake and how many steps they take from one day to the next. We no longer need to be given directions, our phones will not only route our trip - they even tells when to turn.

The possibilities for smartphones seem endless, with new apps being developed and released every day. While the devices certainly make our lives easier, they may be able to do so much more - providing researchers real time insight at a fraction of the cost of traditional data gathering methods. Earlier this year, Apple released its ResearchKit platform allowing researchers to conduct clinical studies on a massive scale. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) will award funds to researchers who use the ResearchKit to build apps for addiction research, Fortune reports. Research teams that are able to provide working apps by April 2016 will be awarded $100,000.

Historically, researchers conducting studies had to recruit volunteers at colleges and through advertisements. Such methods limits the reach a particular study can have, because they require people to check in periodically in person. Using apps on smartphones and smart watches will exponentially increase the reach studies can have, allowing many more people to participate. What’s more, such devices can read biometric data from the participants, allowing researchers to augment survey answers, according to the article.

The NIDA challenge “Addiction Research: There’s an App for that” is a clear sign that the National Institute of Health (NIH) sees the potential of mobile health data. The NIH is not alone in their desire to use Apple’s ResearchKit framework, a number of hospitals and medical institutions have expressed interest, including Johns Hopkins and Stanford Medicine.

The federal register notice states:

“NIDA is seeking to engage communities to envision and to create an app which will help advance scientific research in areas of nicotine, opioids, cannabinoids (including marijuana), methamphetamines, and prescription drug use.”

At Hope By The Sea, we offer several different types of treatment programs, allowing us to serve and customize treatment for more people than other treatment facilities. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact us to begin the journey of recovery.

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